"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its
victims may be the most oppressive."

— C. S. Lewis

Once upon a time, a
cabinetmaker named Peter Wright lived in a modest house by the edge of a
forest, with his wife, Vanna Tristesse, and his two children by his
first marriage. The children were named
Johnny and Margie.

The once prosperous
family had been hit hard by the recession: precision millworking was outsourced
to China while an influx of immigrants had depressed wages in the construction
industry. Peter had been out of work for
months, his unemployment insurance was gone, and his wife made no secret of her
contempt for the fact that he was no longer the primary breadwinner of the
family.

"Yuck," said Johnny
one morning at breakfast. "These English
muffins taste like sawdust."
"They are not
‘English’ muffins," Vanna snapped. "They
are multicultural muffins: fat-free, organic, high-fiber muffins, made from a
diverse variety of sustainable, eco-friendly, non-eurocentric
whole-grains. And we can barely afford
them — now that your father isn’t contributing financially to this household."
"Daadd! Can’t I just have
cornflakes?" Johnny whined.
Peter and Vanna
exchanged glances. "They’re your children," she said. "If you want to let them grow up to be
irresponsible losers … like you, it’s not my problem." She turned to the children. "There is a basket of tribute on the counter
that I want you to deliver to Aunt Samantha this morning — and don’t you dare
forget."
"I don’t like Aunt
Samantha," said Margie. "She’s too bossy.
Why do we have to pay her tribute?"
"Because Auntie Sam
gives us everything," Vanna replied.
"She pays for your education, for our medical care, for retirement, she
keeps us safe, and she even tells what to eat so we can stay healthy."
"Healthy?" said
Johnny. "If she’s really an expert on
nutrition, why is she such a fat-ass herself?
She ought to practice what she preaches."
"Don’t you dare be
disrespectful, young man. Sometimes I
think you’re even worse than your father."
She grabbed her briefcase and stormed out the door.

*

Reluctantly, the
children picked up the basket and trudged through the arid forest. They gasped in disbelief when they arrived at
Auntie Sam’s house – a luxuriant oasis of green and gold.

"It’s like the Emerald City of Oz," whispered
Marge.

"Not quite," said her
brother. "That’s not the right shade of
green to be emeralds; it’s more like the color of money. But the gold sure looks real."
Auntie Sam was
smiling when she opened the door, but both children could sense the coldness
beneath the surface, and they shivered involuntarily. "Come in, my darlings," she said.
"Our stepmother sent
this basket of tribute," said Marge.
"I know, darling," the
woman replied. "Just set it on the
counter with all the others. And I have
a special present for you two," she added, handing each of them a new
toothbrush.
"Gee … ummm, thanks,"
said Johnny. "What’s the occasion?"
"I’ve launched a new
program of free universal dental care for everybody in the whole world – with
no co-pays, no deductibles, and no out-of-pocket expenses."
"Wow," said
Johnny. "But that sounds expensive. Who’s going to pay for it?"
"It won’t cost you
anything; I’m just going to raise taxes on the rich folks."
"I don’t believe you,"
said Johnny. "There aren’t enough rich
folks to pay for something like that."
The old lady’s eyes
narrowed. "You are a clever lad, aren’t
you," she said coldly. "Too clever for
your own good. But I’ll let you in on a
secret. I’ve also decided to re-classify
sugar as a Schedule-1 controlled substance."
"But that’s
ridiculous! Sugar is a
naturally-occurring compound. Nobody
could obey a law like that."
"Exactly!" she
cackled, rubbing her hands together. "I
will ‘create a whole nation of lawbreakers and then cash in on their
guilt.’ That’s how the system works,
Sonny. With the money from fines and
civil asset forfeiture, I can fund every imaginable social welfare system for
the betterment of humankind."
"We had better be
going," said Johnny, taking his sister’s hand, and backing towards the door.
"Not so fast," said
Auntie Sam. "I’ve prepared a healthy
nutritious lunch for each of you before you go.
Carrots, celery, natural camel’s milk yogurt and a big piece of
broccoli."
"We’re not hungry,"
said Johnny.
"I don’t care," she
replied icily. "You will eat or you
won’t ever leave."
"Okay, we’ll eat it,"
said Margie. "But we won’t like it –
especially the broccoli."
Auntie Sam became
hysterical, and even her appearance started to change. "Just eating it isn’t good enough. Do you understand me, you brat? You must love Big Broccoli, or else." The room was becoming unbearably cold and the
children began to shiver as Auntie Sam transformed into some sort of monster.
"She’s turning into a
fire-breathing dragon," said Johnny.
"Not fire — ice," said
Margie and began to scream.
The children tried
to fend her off by throwing the tribute baskets at her, but their hands were
becoming numb. At that moment, their
father suddenly burst through the door, gun in hand, and pumped twelve rounds
of .357 hollow-point into the monster which turned into a bubble of shimmering
liquid. As they stared in amazement, the
puddle climbed up the walls of the room and disappeared.
"How could liquid flow
uphill like that?" asked Johnny.
"Superfluid helium,"
said Mr. Wright. "The coldest thing
there is. Let’s go home; it’s just pure
dumb luck that I happened to be close by and heard you screaming."
As they left, Johnny
picked up a large handful of gold.
"Can’t we take some, Dad? I think
we’ve earned it."
"You can take all you
want; it’s worthless."
"Huh?"
"Here," said his
father. He took some of the crystals and
hit them with a rock. They immediately
turned into a dull brown powder. "It’s
just fool’s gold."
"So you mean Auntie
Sam didn’t actually have any wealth?" asked Margie.
"Not a dime – except
for what she took from others," replied Mr. Wright.

*

As the weary trio
approached their house, they were almost forced off the road by a speeding
BMW. "Hey!" said Margie. "I know that car; it belongs to Vanna’s Zumba
coach. I wonder what he’s doing way out
here.
"I don’t know and I
don’t care," her father replied.
When they got to
their front porch, there was a hand-written note taped to the screen-door. "Look," said Johnny, "it’s in Vanna’s
handwriting, and it’s addressed to you, Dad."
Mr. Wright opened the
note and read it aloud:

"Peter:

I
can’t stand it anymore. I need my own
space, and I’m

going to search for the happiness that I
deserve.

Sincerely,
Vanna T.

P.S. My lawyer will be in touch with you."

"What are you going to
do, Dad?" asked Margie.
"Nothing. Let’s eat."
Johnny opened the
refrigerator. "There’s nothing here but
Arugula, tofu, and a little hummus," he said.
"I’ll send out for
pizza," his father replied.
And they all lived
happily ever after.
The End
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